Coconut Oil Acts Like A Protein – The Truth Behind It All

Nature's Way Coconut Oil-extra VirginIs there any truth to the statement that coconut oil acts like a protein and therefore should be used sparingly if you are ‘protein sensitive’? The answer is yes and no, but more ‘no’ than ‘yes’ if that makes any sense.

The first thing we need to do is define each thing to gain a better understanding of exactly what they are and how they work for our hair.

What is Protein?

Protein is made up of long chains of amino acids required by our body for growth, development, maintenance of cells and repair of all cells.

Our hair is a type of protein, it is basically a couple of layers of intertwined keratin that ‘grows’ from hair follicles. The cool thing about protein is that it can be used to repair damage that is caused from general manipulation of our hair.

Protein that is small enough to penetrate the hair strand, otherwise known as hydrolyzed protein can add layers to the strand from the inside patching up holes that may otherwise cause highly porous hair that cannot retain moisture.

Other proteins that are two large to penetrate the strand, like that which is found in an egg can add layers and repair the hair on the outside of the strand, leading to shiny healthy looking hair.

What is coconut oil?

To define coconut oil we will start with the coconut before it has been ‘processed’. A coconut is a unique food with all parts of it used in different ways to benefit the human body.

Coconut water found inside the coconut is known for its electrolytes and is great for replenishment in dehydration. It’s literally like vitamin water from a tree!

Coconut milk, also derived from the coconut is derived from the shell of the coconut by pressing the flesh of the coconut with hot water, resulting in a milky white substance. The components of the milky white substance include, carbohydrates, fat and of course protein.

Coconut oil is created by separating the oil from a mixture of the milk and the water using a fermentation process. The key difference between coconut oil and coconut milk is essentially that all the carbohydrates and protein are always left in the milk and virtually non-existent in the oil. (the oil is left with fats and traces of vitamin E and K)

We have identified what protein does for the hair in terms of repair, but what is it that coconut oil can do for our hair? The most common similarity coconut oil has with protein is its penetrating capabilities and the nutrients found in the oil serves as a great conditioner.

However in addition to conditioning the hair coconut oil also acts like a typical oil, either helping the hair to retain moisture or temporarily blocking moisture from the hair. With that said, coconut oil behaves like a protein only to the extent that it can penetrate the hair shaft, but it does not do any of the building worked otherwise reserved for protein so it is unlikely to hurt those who are protein sensitive.

Have you stopped using coconut oil because of your fear of protein sensitivity or negative views of the oil?

Originally posted 2012-09-22 19:00:04.

About Petra

Hi I'm Petra Lomax , a staff writer and editor for . I am Jamaican born and raised and moved to the United States in my early 20's. I have a BA in Political Science and International relations as well as an MBA and a Masters In Project Management. I love travel, culture and anything that has to do with creative media and business.

About Petra

Hi I'm Petra Lomax , a staff writer and editor for . I am Jamaican born and raised and moved to the United States in my early 20's. I have a BA in Political Science and International relations as well as an MBA and a Masters In Project Management. I love travel, culture and anything that has to do with creative media and business.


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    1. Jamillah Davis
      Jamillah Davis

      Coconut oil is sold in Walmart w/ other cooking oils, at target and most other grocery stores. You can find it at Whole foods, Trader Joes and online at thousands of retailers and at

  1. Jamillah Davis
    Jamillah Davis

    Coconut oil is not a heavy oil and is often times mixed with heavier oils like Casrtor oil, some ppl even mix it with their shampoo or conditioner. I use it often, then seal my hair w/ shea butter.

  2. Shannon ByAny Means
    Shannon ByAny Means

    Coconut oil is great. Put it in wet and then blow dry and/or flat iron or don’t do anything. I just blow dry. I can’t imagine that it dries out anyone’s hair.

  3. Hannah Sam
    Hannah Sam

    Can you use the regular liquid coconut oil as an alternative to this don’t they do the same job?

  4. Blessed Bygod
    Blessed Bygod

    The truth this oil hardens in my hair and is horrible for winter in my hair. I love it for my body oil and for hair in the summer but in the winter I am not a fan.

  5. Chikeeber

    The first time I used coconut oil was when i was still transitioning and didn’t know
    As much as i do now about caring for hair. It left my hatd extremely dry and hard.
    Think hay or straw like texture. I had to wash out my hair. After that experience i haven’t used it directly on my hair. Been too scared. I’m fully natural now and this article has helped me to understand coconut oil may not have been the culprit. I’ll give it another try and see ehat happens. I figure it can be used as a sealant.

  6. Jenny JackJack
    Jenny JackJack

    I’ve never known coconut oil to make the hair hard. It easily melts and makes the hair shiny and soft for days. Mix it into your conditioner .

    1. Elizabeth Moore
      Elizabeth Moore

      I have low porosity hair and I’m protein sensitivity…..I had to look at all my products from oils, leave-in conditioners, shampoos, stylers, moisturizers, regular/deep conditioners, and it all had some type of protein in it…..I tried coconut lots of times and really wanted to like it but it dried out my hair or I had this straw like hard feeling in my hair and with all that protein overload from the other various products it eventually broke off my hair….I’m on the right track now…..No proteins unless its every couple of weeks to do a protein treatment and then I use a deep conditioner with no protein with heat….But every week when I wash my hair with shampoo or co wash I always deep condition with heat…..Everything that I use now from my leave-in conditioner, cream, my 2 oils, my deep conditioner it has no protein in it…..

  7. Ellysse Clark
    Ellysse Clark

    Sams club sells a huge jar of pure organic extra virgin coconut oil for about $15. Its a great buy considering that’s what you pay for a 16oz. jar online.

  8. William Lomax

    I didn’t know there were Lomax’s in Jamaica. Thanks for the info.

  9. sonya

    It dries my hair out and makes it brittle. It works fine for a pre poo. But, I can’t apply to my dry hair “Disaster”

  10. Sykeena Lawhorn Jackson

    This thread is indeed old, but I feel compelled to bring out a point about coconut oil. Many people try coconut oil and are turned off because it appears as though it makes their hair hard (maybe protein???). I had the same thoughts when I used it on me and my daughter’s hair. However, I quickly realized that it wasn’t the oil, it was the weather. If you use coconut oil in colder weather (below 75 degrees), your hair will harden. So, when I’m asked what oil I use on my hair, I tell people I use coconut oil in the summer months and I switch to olive oil or safflower oil in the winter months. Since I realized that coconut oil has weather limitations, I proceed with usage accordingly. I haven’t experienced any problems since. – Keena

  11. CeCe

    This comment section is old, but I thought I would give my 2 cents. Coconut oil is not a protein. It is a Polar oil that easily penetrates the hair shaft bonding to the protein in the hair. This is why SOME people experience dry, brittle hair. It’s the oil and hair protein bonding together that causes the problem. I use coconut oil, but very little by itself. And if I pre poo with it, I dilute it with another carrier oil.

  12. Tami

    My hair does not love coconut oil because of it allergic to me. Also, it builds up and so oily.

  13. Jyoti Gupta

    Hello struggling with hair fall problem and don’t know what to do. I tried many products but no one gives me the positive result. Please suggest me what to do.

  14. Vijay Kumar

    Very nice blog, thanks for sharing it with us. Coconut oil is mindblowing medicine for hair fall problems.

  15. Sachin

    Lossing your hair in your daily routine during combing and showering and get best advice and treatment from ASG Hair Transplant. Our Surgeons are highly experienced then offer the best advice and provide the right solution of hair fall.

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